Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Gardens and Spas - St. Chad's Wells 



THE gratifying results of Father Mathew's mission to London, coupled with the success of Dr. Granville's work upon the Spas of Germany, have given vivid interest to the various waters of the metropolis. The cold-water-cure has also brought the pure element into high repute, so that altogether water may be said to be rising fast, and people are beginning to think higher of pumps than they have usually been accustomed to do. As such, with the idea that imaginary invalids may just as well spend their money at home as at the German brunnens, we publish the following Handbook to the Waters of London; but more especially to ST. CHAD'S WELL.
    These celebrated Mineral Springs, to which the public attention is net sufficiently directed, are situated at the extreme end of Gray's Inn Lane, on the verge of the King's Cross Frontier, and touching the limits of the Grand Duchy of Battle Bridge. They may be reached on foot or in omnibus, by the routes from Holborn or St. Pancras. The former excursion is perhaps the most agreeable, from the constantly changing scenery of the Gray's Inn Road, and the occasional glimpses, on the right, of the heights of Clerkenwell, which look down upon the district of Bagnigge-Baden - another celebrated chalybeate to be hereafter noticed. And the antiquarian may be gratified by learning that the "Wells" are exactly opposite the former site of the celebrated Cinder Heap, which, in opposition to the Roman Barrows at Pentonville, was composed entirely by English ones. It is also mentioned in the Illustrated British Ballads (London : Birt, Seven Dials), as having been the spot where the dawn of genius burst upon a celebrated literary character of the nineteenth century, who was by profession a dustman. In the metrical romance now before us, he is made to say that the taste for learning, which subsequently raised him to fame and popularity, 
    -" first did peep
    On Battle Bridge, tis plain, airs;
    You recollect, the Cinder Heap,
    Wot stood in Gray's Inn Lane, sirs."
    On arriving at this point, the eye of the traveller is attracted by an inscription upon a board over a double gate and railings, simply setting forth that these are "ST. CHAD'S WELLS." There is a bell-handle in the door-post, but as nobody comes if you pull it, the best plan of entrance is to open the gate yourself and walk in. The road now divides into two, upon each side of an oval shrubbery, whose trees grow in the wildest luxuriance ; but as they both meet again at the opposite point, it is perfectly immaterial which path you choose, both coming to the same in the end.
    Entering the Pump Room, by the method common in establishments of this kind, of going through the door, the first thing to be observed is the Pump itself, standing against the wall on the right-a chaste structure, very like a common one, and ornamented with two brass cocks and a handle. It is surmounted by an image of Victory, in Paris plaster, indicative of the triumph of Temperance, tilting forward upon tiptoe and holding a wreath over the marble font below ; as well as the Joans of Arcs, which doubtless embody some hidden allegory connected with the fortitude necessary to drink the water. The pump is defended by a semicircular bar of painted wood, upon which the miraculous fluid is retailed at a fixed sum the ginger-beer-glassfull.
    The priestess of the institution, who dispenses the inestimable draught. was at the bar when we entered. But upon our appearance she started with affright and fled like a timid fawn to some inner chamber under the double influence of surprise and hair-papers, for it was yet morning. But she left in her place an interesting boy, who upon being asked "how much of the fluid was an average dose?" ingeniously replied, "Thrippunce a pint;" and then inquired "whether we liked it with the chill off?" For an instant we turned away in anger, imagining that the youth took advantage of our defenceless position in such a wild region of solitude, to insult us. But we must do him the justice to say, however, that contrary to his question being the application of a common phrase, there  was actually the means of warming the water for delicate stomachs.
    The taste of the waters from ST. CHAD'S WELLS is certainly more peculiar than pleasant, being something between ink and Epsom salts, with a dash of soapsuds, held in solution. This is the most correct conclusion we could arrive at, from a hurried analysis made on the third of the present month.
    We asked the boy what the water was chiefly good for, and were told in reply, that it was good for everything; at the same time, as as nothing is usually the matter with those who drink it, it is equally good for nothing. We endeavoured to gain some intelligence respecting its qualities, but received no answer beyond the offer of buying a book, for two-pence, on that particular subject. This interesting brochure, of eight pages, in a little blue cover, is entitled, "A TREATISE on the Characteristic Virtues of the Sr. CHAD'S WELL'S Allerative and Aperient Springs," and from it we gleaned the information that nothing at all was ever known concerning the time, place, cause, or circumstances which led to the discovery of the springs; but that they were of high antiquity. This statement is certainly borne out by surrounding objects, including a grand piano of the middle ages, which is ingeniously placed against the door in such a position as to hit everybody in the stomach the instant they enter, and, by exciting that organ, prepare it to receive the invaluable draught. The opposite door of the room opens upon a romantic wilderness, in which we were told that the well was formerly situated; but the innovating spirit of the age, not content with leaving well alone, removed it to the present position. It further appears that St. Chad himself was the first Bishop of Lichfield, and not of Wells, as might possibly be supposed.
    Upon the authority of Jonathan Rhone, who was gardener and waiter at St. Chad's Wells for sixty years, in the middle of the eighteenth century the waters were in high repute, and frequently were visited by eight or nine hundred persons in a morning. The consternation which our own appearance created, leads us to infer that the times have altered; for although the same number of individuals visit the building every day, yet they do not stop, but merely pass along the pavement in front of it, on their way from one spot to another.
    "Of the waters," continues our treatise, "it may be said, with great emphasis, that they approach nearer to that universal remedy, so much sought after by mankind in all ages, than any yet discovered. They will keep for any length of time in bottles well corked [we do not in the least doubt it] ; and a hamper, containing two dozen, may be forwarded to any part of the country, upon the receipt of an enclosure of 1l."
    This is as it should be. The temperance movement will make such presents most acceptable to country friends; and we doubt not, should the feeling progress, that next Christmas "Sample Hampers" will be advertised by the spirited proprietors, containing- 
    One bottle old Sir Hugh Myddelton
    One do. West Middlesex
    Two do. Peerless Pool; 
            and, as a bonne bouche,
Two bottles of strong unsweetened ST. CHAD (for mixing).
    CAUTION.-The public are respectfully informed that the true St.Chad's  Spring can only be obtained, where it is allowed to be drunk, on the premises. Unprincipled individuals have christened a thoroughfare leading from Myddelton Square to St John Street Road Chadwell Street (observe the subterfuge of the Chad), to mislead valetudinarians, and foist New River trash upon the public as the real article. None is genuine unless visitors go at once to the Fountain head.
    N.B.-Please copy the address St Chad's Wells, opposite the other side of the way, Gray's Inn Road.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1843